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Lay Catholics Should Defuse the Catholic Anti-Abortion Claim About Conception

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) December 14, 2013: Ever since the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in the first trimester in the United States, Roman Catholic bishops and priests in the United States have spear-headed the Catholic anti-abortion crusade against legalized abortion in the first trimester.

How many non-Catholic American adults today are NOT aware of the Catholic anti-abortion crusade against legalized abortion in the first trimester?

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In addition, how many non-Catholic American adults today are NOT aware that the Roman Catholic Church is officially against the use of artificial contraception?

American Catholics have made many non-Catholic Americans aware of their church's teachings against legalized abortion in the first trimester and against the use of artificial contraception.

But is there any hope that American Catholics who are against legalized abortion in the first trimester could change their way of thinking about abortion in the first trimester?

TWO LAY CATHOLICS DEBATE CATHOLIC ANTI-ABORTION POLITICS

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Maybe there is a wee bit of hope that Peter Steinfels might persuade some of his fellow Catholics to think again about that moment of conception claim. But George McKenna remains unconvinced by Steinfels' argument.

In the American Catholic anti-abortion crusade, the bishops and priests have popularized the claim that distinctively human life begins at the moment of conception.

I agree that at the moment of conception a new life-form emerges when the sperm fertilizes an egg, but it is an infrahuman life-form. My position is that distinctively human life comes into existence at the moment when the fetus becomes viable and can live outside the mother's womb.

Over the years many lay American Catholics have been willing foot soldiers in the Catholic anti-abortion crusade against legalized abortion in the first trimester.

But then in the June 14, 2013 issue of Commonweal Magazine, a magazine of opinion edited by lay Catholics, Peter Steinfels, a past editor of Commonweal, published a lengthy and heartfelt article in which he questioned the claim about distinctively human life beginning at the moment of conception ("Beyond the Stalemate," pages 12-18).

Then in September, George McKenna, another lay Catholic, replied at length to Steinfels in the Human Life Review, a Catholic journal.

Now, Steinfels has replied to McKenna in Human Life Review.

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But neither Steinfels nor McKenna understands the import of the claim used in the Catholic anti-abortion crusade for the church's teaching against the use of artificial contraception. (Disclosure: When I was in the Jesuit order in the Roman Catholic Church, I did graduate studies in theology, including Catholic moral theology, at the University of Toronto. However, for many years now, I have not been a practicing Catholic.)

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Roman Catholics are indoctrinated to out-source their thinking about morality to the Roman Catholic bishops acting collectively through the teaching function of the church that is known as the magisterium (formed from the Latin word for teacher, "magister"). In matters of faith and morals, the church supposedly has teaching authority.

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www.d.umn.edu/~tfarrell
Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)
 

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